With our new website and memberships launching, we thought we'd introduce Bike Baton Rouge's new (and old) board members who are currently behind the wheel (er, handlebars) of this organization. We're starting this weekly series with the man himself, the godfather of Bike Baton Rouge, outgoing Bike Baton Rouge president and founder of the organization - Mark Martin.
Who are you and where are you from?
I am Mark E. Martin. I was born and raised in Florida a long time ago.
Why do you love bicycling?
As if there were a short answer to that . . . believe it or not, the main reason I love bicycling is the peace and joy it brings me. There are lots of other reasons but that’s the fundamental one.
Why did you join the Bike Baton Rouge board? How long have you served (as a board member or as a volunteer)?
I started what is now Bike Baton Rouge in 2006 with five others. I served as chair-president for a number of years and have been on the board the entire ten years.
What do you see YOUR role as with Bike Baton Rouge? What do you do and what are you good at?
I tend to see problems and work to resolve them, that’s why I started Bike Baton Rouge. I’m good at talking to people, gathering information, and disseminating it to those who could use the information to move creation of safer streets forward on all levels. I’m also handy with lots of low-level computer applications used to create documents, visuals, and databases.
What would you consider the greatest challenge to bicycling in Baton Rouge?
Wow . . . well . . . primarily a lack of appropriate bicycle-specific infrastructure. Without the infrastructure the city has, in my opinion, nearly reached the peak of ridership, which is largely young males, also known as “riders of choice,” and those who have no alternative, also known as “riders of necessity.” Appropriate, well-constructed, and thoughtfully located bicycle infrastructure will provide a safer environment for riding. That in turn will attract a much wider and larger ridership comprised of those who are currently uncomfortable riding on the street without bicycle-specific infrastructure.
What are you and Bike Baton Rouge doing to tackle that challenge?
We’ve been deeply involved in the governmental agencies that are responsible for creating infrastructure, amending laws, and encouraging others to ride. We’ve been effective in moving bicycling, walking, and sustainable transportation into the mainstream of conversations with these agencies. That, in turn, has brought a greater understanding of the issues to those who were unaware.
What will bicycling in Baton Rouge look like in 1/5/20 years’ time?
My crystal ball is out for polishing but, if I had to predict the future, I’d say a great deal depends on three things: 1) support from political and business leaders; 2) continued funding for projects, and; 3) changes in the way bicycling is seen by those who build infrastructure. We have a mayoral election coming up this fall which will be crucial to continuing forward movement on infrastructure. Funding is tight now and will probably be tighter in the future. Attrition, a very slow process at best, will probably have the greatest effect on the engineers and builders though political support/pressure is a factor.
At the same time, I believe more and more people will want to ride. Demographics will potentially be a major force. We’re already seeing the effects of Baby Boomers aging out, part of which is a desire to live in dense urban settings without the need for daily driving. At the other end of the spectrum, Millennials have a lowest motor vehicle ownership and driver’s license holding levels in fifty years. Both of these forces will, I believe, create a desire for better bicycling infrastructure.
What does your ideal day of bike riding in Baton Rouge look like?
An ideal day of riding would include dry, cool, sunny weather with the least interaction with motor vehicles possible. Throw in a gathering of bike people, some good food, a little beer, and maybe a fire in the backyard pit . . . heaven.
Anything else you'd like to mention?
Ride yer bike!